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Faking the whale hunt in Agaguk


Toshirō Mifune's screen presence on Agaguk
Billy Williams Film-maker
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Now there's a sequence right at the beginning of the film in which our hero, Agaguk, kills a polar bear with a knife and brings home the pelt, which his father, the shaman, gives to the white man, who was a French-Canadian actor, gives it to him to pay off his debts for alcohol. Well, this leads to a great row between Agaguk and his father, a very dramatic scene, and gosh, working with Mifune, I was so impressed with his screen presence. He had this marvellous screen presence, absolutely riveting on screen, but there were sort of strange contradictions because he had a full beard and the Inuit don't have facial hair, so he was the only man in the cast with facial hair. We had a lot of real Inuit in the... playing the crowd scenes and one or two dialogue scenes, so we just had Toshiro Mifune with a... with a speckled beard and... and he was just marvellous, but he didn't speak any English, or just a few words, so his dialogue had to be worked out with a dialogue coach from Los Angeles who... who was Japanese but spoke perfect English, and all his dialogue had to be worked out phonetically. And we had idiot boards all round the set so he had to go from one idiot board to the other to get his dialogue right; which was incredibly difficult. I mean he did it very well but it was incredibly difficult to get it done, but it was worth it because of the sheer presence of the man.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 1 minute, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008